In my view, and this is based on a lifetime’s experience in the industry, in some shape or form,the whole concept of driver training and testing should be reshaped to properly represent the needs and expectations of the general public and the requirements of road safety.
The present system of ADI does not hold out any guarantee that proper expert tuition is being given, and the present test does not test the candidate’s overall driving capabilities but merely shows whether they can drive for half an hour without commiting what is presently called a “serious” driving error.
Let’s start with the tuition. I believe that the present ADI system should be completely dismantled and replaced by one run by the Driving Instructors’ Association, or DIA. I doubt whether most people would even notice the change in the initials from ADI to DIA.
To belong to the DIA you should have to pass a driving test, run by them, not the DSA, similar to the standard presently required by the Diamond advanced test. This would at least ensure that the instructor’s own driving was up to standard and he/she could use this as the basis for their instruction, “do as I do” etc.
This would then entitle the instructor to belong to the DIA and receive a diploma as to their driving standard. They would have to pay a membership fee but not being a member would not prevent them from instructing. The present system of the ADI whereby you pay your money to get on their list or you don’t work smacks of a protection racket and would be illegal in most countries.
Of course this would not guarantee top class instruction, but it is impossible to guarantee this anyway. At present an instructor does what he is suppposed to do on the check test and gets a grade 6 rating. Afterwards there is nothing to stop him just riding along as accompanying driver or taking shortcuts that make the job easier for him.
My proposed system would at least guarantee the instructor’s driving ability, on which his instruction could be based, and this is all that is necessary. I would hope that the public would recognise that getting instruction from a member of the DIA would be likely to be of a higher standard that a non member. I would think you would rather your house was repaired by a member of the Master Builders, than any old guy from round the corner. The same holds here.
Now the actual driving test. The current training of examiners is test based and should instead be based on their own driving. Currently the training is heavily biased on test procedure whereas in my view it should be concentrated on ensuring the examiner traineer’s driving, already at a high standard or he wouldn’t be on the course, was up to a very high standard indeed – near perfect in fact. This is then the basis for his test marking assessments.
The vast majority of test fails presently come in with just the one “serious” marking and a handful of so called minor errors, more correctly called driving errors. This is because the examiner spends all his time during training learning a long list of errors that can be marked as serious, by rote. There are over 200 such errors on the list.
I propose that there should only be “Driver Errors”, and not other categories such as the “serious” and “dangerous” ones at present. If the current number of driver errors goes over 15 then that is a failure and this should be retained. I think it is a fair figure. In this way a candidate would be failed or passed on the overall standard of driving, and not come in with a fail with just one so called serious marking. There should be no de-briefing at the end for this would not then be necessary and is currently useless anyway. No candidate listens to it or believes what he is being told.
Test content? I am happy with the present format except for the Bay Park. This should be removed, and for these reasons. Take a look round any Supermarket or multi-storey car park and you will see no evidence that the inclusion of the bay park has influenced in any way how people park in bays. Most cars will be well croocked and/or much too close to the side lines on one side, making the adjacent bay unuseable or if there is already a car there, making it very difficult for the driver or passengers to get access.
Many test centres do not have a car park and so any tests conducted from that centre will not have the bay park included. A consequence of this is that many of the local instructors, knowing this, do not teach it at all, making their job that bit easier.
The third reason is that the first five minutes of any test should be a settling in period, with nothing particularly challenging during that time. If any driving errors are committed during this period, they will of course be marked, but the aim should be for the candidate to settle in. Frequently the candidate is asked to do the bay park exercise immediately after getting in the car. I am surprised any manage it successfully in those circumstances. If they mess it up badly, the rest of the test is already academic.
The Bay Park is completely wrong and destroys the underlying principle of the driving test which is its attempted uniformity, wherever you take it. Some areas never have to do it, so some candidates have a potentially easier test than those who do. It must be removed from the agenda.
So a somewhat drastic re-organisation then, but one I believe necessary and one that would work better than the present system, though nothing could ever be perfect.